Environmental Must-Reads – April 3, 2013


Hickenlooper’s Growing Fracking Problem

John Hickenlooper has set the political bar in Colorado to a new level. He enjoyed nearly two terms as the Mayor of Denver at a level of popularity that made it feel more like a non-stop honeymoon. As Governor of Colorado, he has enjoyed nearly the same level of popularity. He has been able to navigate difficult issues and keep ahead of the game like few others before him.

However, in the issue of fracking, John Hickenlooper has met a political situation that has finally brought him back down to a difficult reality.

Pew Survey: Americans Have Mixed Feelings About Fracking

A new national survey out today by the Pew Research Center shows 48 percent of Americans favor the increased use of fracking, while 38 percent are opposed.

Unsurprisingly, differences of opinion fall along partisan, gender, and regional lines.

Solar and Fracking: They Go Together Like Ham and Eggs

David Roberts has an interesting post today summarizing a new report from Citi Research about renewable power and natural gas. Basically, it turns out they go together like ham and eggs.

All those fracking jobs come with an increased risk of lung cancer

While all the damage hydraulic fracturing could do to the Earth is pretty well-covered, we mostly overlook the risks it poses to fracking workers. Each well requires thousands of tons of fracking sand full of fine silica, which can penetrate lungs and lead to incurable silicosis and even lung cancer.

Ecologists say fracking taking a toll of Northeast’s wildlife

Hawks swoop in and gobble up songbirds. Raccoons feast on nests of eggs they never could have reached before. Salamanders and wildflowers fade away, crowded out by invasive plants that are altering the soil they need to thrive.

Like a once-quiet neighborhood cut up by an expressway and laced with off ramps, northeastern forests are changing because of the pipelines crisscrossing them amid the region’s gas drilling boom, experts say.

Texas senators discuss fracking groundwater rules

For about two hours on Tuesday, the Senate Natural Resources Committee discussed whether to tighten rules governing water wells used to supply hydraulic fracturing operations.

The discussion centered on Senate Bill 873, carried by state Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, which would allow local groundwater authorities to require oil and gas companies using water for fracking to get permits.

Anson commissioners to discuss 5-year fracking ban

Anson County commissioners could vote Tuesday night on an ordinance that would ban the practice of fracking in the county for five years.

The ordinance was drawn up in the wake of state Senate passage in February of legislation that would allow fracking in North Carolina as early as 2015. The House has not acted on the legislation yet.

Manhattan’s Methane Levels Show Natural Gas as Damaging to Climate as Other Fossil Fuels

Damascus Citizens for Sustainability (DCS) commissioned a preliminary investigation by Gas Safety, Inc. in November and December of 2012 of fugitive emissions of natural gas in Manhattan to better understand gas distribution systems in the context of global climate concerns. The methane measurements in Manhattan indicated many leaks, some intense. Very few measurements indicated normal background methane levels.

VIDEO: A Boom With No Boundaries—How Oil and Gas Drilling is Damaging Our Public Lands

The Bakken oil boom in North Dakota has brought much-needed jobs and economic development to the region. But the fast pace of the drilling has caused many problems, including industrial-scale impacts on Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the land surrounding it.

CallCuomo.com Campaign Launches to Protect New Yorkers’ Health and Safety from Fracking

A group of more than 30 health, environmental and grassroots organizations including Concerned Health Professionals of NY, National Resources Defense Council, 350.org, Environmental Advocates of New York, Riverkeeper, Democracy for America, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Frack Action, United for Action and New Yorkers Against Fracking launched a new anti-fracking call-in campaign with a website and a robust social media plan.

How Big Could a Man-Made Earthquake Get?

Scientists have found evidence that wastewater injection induced a record-setting quake in Oklahoma two years ago. How big can a man-made earthquake get, and will we see more of them in the future?

Gulf Oil Spill Claims Czar Seeks Dismissal of BP Suit

The administrator of BP Plc’s settlement with thousands of people and businesses who sued over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill urged a federal judge on Monday to end the company’s lawsuit over how he determines damages claims.

BP had last month urged U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans to issue an emergency order to stop court-appointed administrator Patrick Juneau from paying out “absurd” amounts based on inflated or fictitious claims.

Gulf Of Mexico Dolphin Deaths Point To Continued Effects Of BP Oil Spill, Group Alleges

Continuing deaths of dolphins and sea turtles are a sign that the Gulf of Mexico is still feeling effects from the 2010 spill that spewed 200 million gallons of oil from a well a mile below the surface, a prominent environmental group said Tuesday.

The deaths — especially in dolphins, which are at the top of the food chain — are “a strong indication that there is something amiss with the Gulf ecosystem,” said National Wildlife Federation senior scientist Doug Inkley.

Halliburton worker testifies at Gulf oil spill trial that he wouldn’t have done anything differently

A man who worked for BP’s cement contractor on the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 testified Tuesday that he didn’t believe BP’s employees were risking workers’ safety when they didn’t follow his recommendations.

3 years later, oil leak effects still unfolding

Almost three years after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 men and resulting in the country’s largest oil spill, its impacts linger and the extent of the damage is unknown, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation.

The report, “Restoring a Degraded Gulf of Mexico: Wildlife and Wetlands Three Years into the Gulf Oil Disaster,” details high dolphin mortalities, sea turtle strandings, acceleration of coastal erosion and damaged deep sea coral, among other things.

Trial Over Gulf Oil Spill Resumes With Halliburton

A Halliburton employee who worked on a failed cement job linked to a 2010 deadly oil rig explosion in the Gulf is testifying in a trial to determine what caused the blowout.

Jesse Gagliano began testifying Tuesday about his work for BP’s (NYSE: BP  ) cement contractor on the Deepwater Horizon. Gagliano invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination at his deposition in 2011, but he later agreed to testify at trial. He previously had been interviewed by a congressional committee and testified in 2010 before a government panel probing the disaster.

Halliburton Worker Testifies at Gulf Spill Trial

A man who worked for BP’s cement contractor on the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 testified Tuesday that he didn’t believe the oil giant’s employees were risking workers’ safety when they didn’t follow his recommendations.

La. lawmaker seeks to dedicate BP Clean Water Act fines for coastal restoration

A pre-filed bill in the House of Representatives by Rep. Simone Champagne (R–Jeanerette) would allow voters to decide on a constitutional amendment that would dedicate Clean Water Act fines from the 2010 BP oil spill to the Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund.

If HB118 were to pass and later receive a majority vote by voters it would prevent any funds coming from Clean Water Act violations in the 2010 BP oil spill from being used for anything but coastal protection and restoration projects, such as funding levee districts and marsh creation.

Pipeline Spills Stir New Criticism of Keystone Plan

Two recent oil pipeline spills have prompted new criticism from opponents of the proposed Keystone XL project, while raising more questions about whether the federal government is adequately monitoring the nation’s vast labyrinth of pipelines.

Arkansas AG to investigate oil pipeline leak

The Arkansas attorney general is opening an investigation into what caused last week’s pipeline rupture that allowed thousands of barrels of heavy crude oil to flow into a residential area.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Tuesday he asked Exxon Mobil, the owner of the 60-year-old Pegasus pipeline, to preserve all documents and information related to the spill and cleanup efforts.

Arkansas opens investigation into Exxon oil spill

Arkansas on Tuesday launched an investigation into an Exxon Mobil pipeline rupture that spilled thousands of barrels of crude oil into a housing development last week, just as forecast rain was expected to complicate the clean-up.

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel asked Exxon to preserve all documents and information related to Friday’s spill and ongoing recovery at the site in Mayflower, Ark., about 20 miles northeast of Little Rock.

Where will it burst next? Arkansas oil spill sheds light on aging US pipelines

The Exxon oil spill in Mayflower, Arkansas has left many concerned about the state of America’s pipelines, and whether a similar catastrophe is on the way. As pipelines get older, the risks increase – but is anything being done to minimize the danger?

US law says no ‘oil’ spilled in Arkansas, exempting Exxon from cleanup dues

The central Arkansas spill caused by Exxon’s aging Pegasus pipeline has reportedly unleashed 10,000 barrels of Canadian heavy crude – but a technicality says it’s not oil, letting the energy giant off the hook from paying into a national cleanup fund.

Legally speaking, diluted bitumen like the heavy crude that’s overrun Mayflower, Arkansas, is not classified as ‘oil’. And it’s that very distinction that exempts Exxon from contributing to the government’s oil spillage cleanup fund.

Michigan DEQ: Lansing Grand River oil spill not minor

Crews were working Tuesday afternoon to clean up after the Lansing Board of Water & Light spilled hundreds of gallons of oil into the Grand River.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality spokesperson Brad Wurfel said the utility spilled 300 to 500 gallons of oil into the water due to an equipment malfunction late Sunday. The Environmental Protection Agency deployed a spill manager to the scene immediately, he said.

More tremors near sinkhole halt efforts

Work is again on hold near the Assumption Parish sinkhole site due to more tremors.

Seismic monitors picked up the activity early Tuesday morning. The devices are taking readings around the clock to determine when it’s safe for crews to get back to work.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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